KRISTY + HER COCKTAILS

If there’s one thing that rivals my love for creating a delicious, soulful meal, it’s mixing a good cocktail. I’ve enjoyed the classic cocktail revival that’s swept through restaurants and bars, as well as the focus on fresh, seasonal cocktail ingredients. But, as much as I like to travel and seek out mad-scientist mixologists and their latest creations, there’s a special pleasure that comes from mixing cocktails in the comfort of my home, sharing them with friends on the back porch or around the kitchen table.

One of my favorite ways to spice up a cocktail is by adding an infused simple syrup. Syrups are quick, easy, and affordable to make and are good for the at-home cocktail party because most of the preparation can be done in advance. I think of flavors that I like to use together when cooking, such as lemon and thyme or blackberry and sage, then simmer these ingredients with sugar-water and incorporate the resulting syrup with a complimentary spirit. Straining off the ingredients you are infusing will allow the syrup to last longer, up to a month in the refrigerator. Below are some simple cocktail recipes using infused syrups:

STRAWBERRY + TARRAGON + BUBBLY

Strawberries will be popping up in farmer’s markets across Alabama over the next couple of weeks. They marry beautifully with a number of herbs, but I find the anise-like quality of tarragon to be the most interesting and tasty match. Replace the sparkling wine with bubbly water for a non-alcoholic version.

For the strawberry-tarragon syrup:

2 cups strawberries (select the most overly-ripe, soft berries)
1 cup fine or raw sugar
¾ cup water
1 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
3 sprigs tarragon

Mash the strawberries and combine in a pot with sugar, water, orange juice, and tarragon. Simmer over medium heat for 6-7 minutes. Strain off the strawberries and tarragon with a fine mesh strainer and set aside. Cool the remaining syrup.

For the cocktail:

1 ounce chilled strawberry-tarragon syrup
5 ounces dry sparkling wine
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (optional)

Add the syrup and bitters to a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine.

GINGER + MINT + GIN

Ginger is such a versatile flavor that plays well with almost any spirit. This recipe uses it in a refreshing cocktail that’s great for welcoming spring.

For the ginger syrup:

1 medium piece ginger root, peeled and cut into ½ inch discs
1 cup sugar
¾ cup water

Combine the ingredients in a pot and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 more minutes. Strain off the ginger with a fine mesh strainer and set aside. Cool the remaining syrup.

For the cocktail:

1 ½ ounces gin (I prefer Hendrick’s for this cocktail.)
¾ ounce ginger syrup
1 large sprig fresh mint, stem included
Juice of 1 lemon
½ ounce spring water

Combine ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

PECAN + ORANGE + BOURBON

Pecans are available pretty much year-round in Alabama. This cocktail makes a great after dinner sipper. The leftover pecan syrup can be reserved for your morning coffee.

For the pecan syrup:

1 ½ cups pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup fine or raw sugar
¾ cup water

Toast the pecans on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes, until aromatic. Transfer to a pot and bring to a simmer with the sugar and water for another 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and letthe pecans steep for 10 minutes. Strain off the pecans with a fine mesh strainer and set aside. Cool the remaining syrup.

For the cocktail:

2 ounces bourbon (The notes of cinnamon in Buffalo Trace bourbon work well with the pecans.)
1 ounce pecan syrup
Orange twist
2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters (optional)

Mix and serve over ice. Garnish with a large twist of orange.

-Kristy

P.S.: We enjoyed our cocktails in Heath Glassware, handblown in West Virginia.

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